There is no denying that the end of the world has always been a popular topic in literature. This article will be discussing some of the best post-apocalyptic fiction books ever written while also giving you an idea for which ones to read next if you are looking to get your fix on this dystopian theme.
List of Top 27 Best Post Apocalyptic Books
If you’re a big fan of the post apocalyptic world or the TV show (The Walking Dead), you’ll love comic books. The TV series is based on Robert Kirkman’s comics, and it expands on what happens after a zombie apocalypse. There are currently around 150 issues out, with more coming all of the time – worth checking out if you liked the show or want to read something new!
Another of Max Brooks’s books, World War Z, is a fictionalized take on the zombie apocalypse. This book is so compelling from other post-apocalyptic novels because it’s presented as an oral history gathered from various people who lived through the war – hence no one protagonist to get attached to.
What you will like about this novel, in particular, is how his perspective changes when he learns there might be more than just zombies lurking in the shadows (think aliens). With each interview, you come across new information and insight into what happened during WWZ. Even if you’re not particularly interested in Zombie war or Post-Apocalyptic stories, give this book/movie adaptation a try! It will surprise you at every turn.
In this book, Robert Neville is the last man on Earth, and he’s not alone. The entire planet has been overrun by a virus that turns its victims into vampiric creatures. This isn’t like any other vampire story you’ve read, though; these vampires are truly monsters, attacking and killing anyone they find with no mercy.
4. A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M Miller Jr
Another great post-apocalyptic book is A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M Miller Jr. This follows a priest and a scientist after the fall of civilization. They work together to preserve books from before the apocalypse so that culture can be reborn again in some form or another.
This was published in 1960 but won the Hugo Award in 1961 because it offered an insightful look into human society and how we treat our world today.
This book by Stephen King is an absolute classic. It is about a plague that wiped out the entire human race leaving only a handful people in one town of Boulder, Colorado. The post apocalyptic fiction book follows many characters. Stephen King primarily tells two separate tales of how their lives are affected by this pandemic and what happens afterward. This book has everything you could want from a post-apocalyptic world, including a zombie survival guide, crazy evil groups who still think they can survive off canned food, and good old-fashioned survivor resourcefulness.
6. Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel
Station Eleven is a post-apocalyptic novel by Emily St John Mandel. The book’s premise is interesting because it took place long after most stories do when civilization has already reestablished itself and life has gone on for years since “the collapse.” You will enjoy how the author includes snippets from periods before the fall throughout the story so you can see what people’s lives were like in each era.
7. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
If you are looking for the best post apocalyptic books that are a bit easier to stomach, “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy might be the one for you. This Pulitzer Prize winning novel follows a man and his son as they travel across post-apocalyptic America after an unknown disaster has destroyed most civilization. The two are on a quest to find any salvation left in this completely barren world filled with people who have turned into savage cannibals. While it may not be as action-packed or full of zombies as many others on this list, it will still leave you feeling helpless and terrified at times, all while trying to hold onto some hope during humanity’s darkest moments ever written about before.
8. The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R Carey
As the book title suggests, the protagonist is a young girl named Melanie. The story takes place in England, where survivors live inside an army/government base called “Citadel.”
There’s plenty of action scenes in The Girl with All the Gifts that will keep readers glued until they finish reading all 400 pages! This post-apocalyptic novel is perfect for fans looking for zombies or any apocalypse setting, including biological warfare. Other than being one heck of a ride full of kung fu fighting scenes, brilliant heart-pounding suspenseful moments–the author excitingly reflects on humanity.
9. Wool, Shift, Dust and Clay (The Chemical Garden Trilogy) by Lauren DeStefano
Another interesting post-apocalyptic book is “The Chemical Garden Trilogy” by Lauren DeStefano. This book is set in the future after a nuclear war has destroyed most of the population. The story follows Rhine, who was kidnapped to be a bride for Linden Ashby – which would mean that she will never see her family again.
Wool (2011) is the first novel in this series, with Shift following it two years later and Dust being published recently in 2016. All three books have been very well received thanks to their compelling characters and exciting plot twists! While some issues are present in this book, they can be easily overlooked when you consider what an impact Wool had on post-apocalyptic fiction as we know it today!
10. Oryx and Crake (MaddAddam Series) by Margaret Atwood
If you want to read a book with an epic and gripping tale and that will make you think about the future of humanity, Oryx and Crake is the right choice. It’s not your typical post-apocalyptic genre, though, because this one takes place in our time instead of after we’re dead or gone. The story follows Jimmy, who remembers bits and pieces of his childhood with some strange but intriguing memories involving Snowman (formerly known as Crake) and some animal/human hybrids he created called pigeons (a mix between pigs and humans).
This brilliant epic book offers an exciting view of how overpopulation can lead us to extinction. When human beings are no longer helpful for corporations, they get eliminated off the face of the planet by genetic engineering experiments such as these.
11. One Second After
The book opens with the premise that an electromagnetic pulse sweeps through the earth after a nuclear exchange. Everything powered by electricity is wiped out, and society begins to crumble as people struggle without centralized systems.
The main character of “One Second After” struggles to save his family in the small town of Black Mountain, North Carolina, after America loses its technological backbone. He has no running water or power. He works for food rations scavenging what’s left outside city limits while trying not to get killed along the way. Meanwhile, there are groups forming who attempt to take advantage of others during this time of weakness.
This book is fascinating because it takes place in NC. But don’t expect too many references. You’ll be disappointed if you’re looking for a good ol’ North Carolina story.
12. A Canticle for Leibowitz
Another book that you should find is “A Canticle for Leibowitz” by Walter M. Miller Jr. This book was written in 1959 and takes place 600 years after a nuclear war that wiped out civilization as we know it today.
The religious order of St.Leibowitz, who supposedly saved books before the destruction, tries to preserve human knowledge through an abbey dedicated to the saint’s memory where scribes copy down old texts so they can be kept forever. It uncovers how society rebuilds itself from scratch and what happens when people try to re-create technology without understanding its purpose or meaning. A great read with some interesting twists at the end!
13. The Dog Stars by Peter Heller
The book is about a man who is the only survivor of his plane crash after an apocalypse. He lives in an abandoned airport with his dog and another lone person – Hig, who survived too when he was on patrol. Together they make their daily routines to survive day by day while waiting for death or rescue.
The writing style is also captivating since it does not include any numberings or bullet points, so everything seems like you’re reading someone’s journal entries instead of fiction book content which can be boring at times, but this book was not.
14. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
The book is set in a post-apocalyptic world where North America is divided into twelve Districts and Panem, containing the Capitol. The Hunger Games are an annual event that started after ‘the Dark Days’ when the districts rebelled against their government, resulting in its collapse and famine, among 12 others. Every year each district must send two tributes (a boy and girl) between ages 12-18 who will compete for survival on live television within a controlled environment until there is only one left standing. Katniss Everdeen volunteers as tribute from her impoverished coal-mining District but sacrifices herself to save her sister Primrose.
This book was written almost 20 years ago yet remains exceptionally relevant today due to its portrayal of people’s lengths to survive. The Hunger Games is like nothing you’ve ever read before, and it’s one that everyone needs to experience for themselves!
15. 1984 by George Orwell
If you are looking for a book that will make you rethink how society works, then 1984 is an excellent choice. George Orwell’s classic novel warns us about how easily our modern world could spin into dystopia if we let it. This story of one man’s struggle against Big Brother has become more relevant since its publication in 1949.
16. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Another classic, Lord of the Flies, takes place on an island where a group of British boys survives after their plane crashes. The novel by William has been taught in schools since its publication, but it is especially significant because it was written only twenty years after World War II ended and reflects that time’s concerns about human nature.
This book isn’t for everyone–it can be challenging at times with language used to describe some scenes, which require careful reading from parents when recommending to younger readers or children sensitive to violence/horror elements in literature.
17. Animal Farm by George Orwell
Another interesting book that you should add to your reading list is one by George Orwell, “Animal Farm.” It’s a model of a dystopian novel that shows the evils of communism and fascism. Orwell received help from his friend David Astor who worked as an editor at The Observer to get Animal Farm published.
In this story, farm animals overthrow their cruel farmer only for one animal, Big Brother (the pigs), to take control and become more oppressive than Farmer Jones ever was.
18. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
This remarkable book tells the story of Offred, whose role in society has been reduced to bearing children after an uprising where women lost all rights over anything other than breeding new citizens. Her memories are limited due to her leader having signed up for handmaids with specific desirable traits; Offred’s rich memory makes the story so intriguing as it takes place in an environment where those who can retain memories are considered dangerous and forced to undergo brainwashing treatment.
19. The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
This book is about a comet that comes to Earth and blinds most of the population, allowing plants called triffids to grow everywhere since there are no humans around to stop them. The main character witnesses his parents being eaten by these plants before he goes into hiding in an attic with another survivor who was also blinded during the event. They escape but find themselves stranded on a small island off of England without any hope of rescue or sighted people like them alive, where they must learn how to survive as their food supply runs out. Drifters (people who survived the blindness) begin killing those still alive for what little supplies remain on the land.
20. Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank
This Pat Frank’s book is a classic. It was one of the first books with no zombies or aliens, but just life after an atomic bomb goes off in America. This novel forces you to think about what will happen if something like this happens today with all our technology and resources gone.
This post-apocalyptic story occurs during 15 days immediately following the nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union starting on July 24th when bombs go off everywhere, killing millions. The main character, Randy Bragg, lives outside Fort Repose, Florida, where he experiences how things change as people try to rebuild their lives even though they have nothing left except each other.
21. On the Beach by Nevil Shute
A book written many years ago, On the Beach, is a classic tale of how people deal with nuclear warfare. Told from the perspective of an Australian family as they await the inevitable end to come ashore, it shows their struggle for survival. It captures your heart as you feel exactly what the few survivors experience throughout this journey into uncertainty.
22. A Song of Ice and Fire Series (Game of Thrones)” George R Martin
In this book, the world of Westeros is plunged into an apocalyptic winter – it has not been seen before. The land freezes over, and animals are struggling to find food in the harsh conditions. Cold weather destroys many crops, leaving people desperate for fresh supplies.
The Seven Kingdoms experience a power struggle between different factions. This leads them to war against each other while fighting their enemies outside the kingdom’s borders too!
People across these lands must survive through struggles such as starvation and disease outbreaks caused by poor living conditions during extreme weather events that cause famine among residents who do not have enough resources or bodyguards to protect themselves from violent attacks that occur on some occasions when there are limited options for survival due to lack of access to necessities like medicine, food, clean water, and shelter.
23. The Road Less Traveled written by M Scott Peck
In the book, The Road Less Traveled, M Scott Peck describes the path of life as one that is considered to be difficult and complex. He explains what is necessary for successful living; then, he considers how this relates to self-discipline, love, marriage, parenthood, etc.
24. Severance by Ling Ma
In this book, Ling Ma tells the story of a young New Yorker who, just like everybody else in this bustling city, is always on her phone. Then she gets laid off, and everything changes.
Lena’s relationship with technology has become so inseparable that it feels as if there would be no way to survive without it; but instead of attempting to break out of this digital captivity, Lena complies with what society expects from her: She buys an overpriced coffee maker for work, adopts a dog which hardly seems more than another thing competing for attention (and affection) amidst all the distractions brought by smartphones and social media feeds – or rather, lifestreams? At least that’s how Ma spins the familiar smartphone addiction trope into something fresh.
25. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
This is also another book that is in my top ten. Cloud Atlas is a fantastic book that I couldn’t put down. This novel switches perspectives between different characters, periods, and even post-apocalyptic worlds. It gives you a glimpse into the not too distant future or past while keeping you interested with its action-packed stories of people trying to survive against all odds.
26. The Slynx by Tatyana Tolstaya, tr. Jamey Gambrell
The book is set after a nuclear winter in future Russia. Society has been divided into two parts: those who have adapted to their new world and can still conceive of things such as love, art, literature, etc., and then there are the “Twisted,” which is what happens if you drink water from a river that contains radiation—essentially deranged mutants or zombies.
The story follows one man’s journey through this bleak, post-apocalyptic landscape where he hopes to find his lost lover even though she might be dead. To get her back, however, he must navigate both the desolate wastelands left by war while also avoiding being captured or killed by either mutated cannibals looking for food sources or fanatical religious groups out to kill anyone who does not follow their strict dogmas.
27. Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okarafor
This fantasy novel takes place in post-apocalyptic Africa. It follows young Onyesonwu, who struggles to use her magical powers for good despite being ostracized by her community because she is the child of what they call “half-breeds.” This book is lovely and will have you crying one minute then cheering on all the female characters. I highly recommend this read!
What are some examples of post-apocalyptic books?
These are a few that I have read and enjoyed: A Canticle for Leibowitz, The Stand, World War Z.
Why should I read these books?
These novels are great if you enjoy post-apocalyptic fiction, science fiction, and dystopian stories. These books offer a wide range of diversity, from female empowerment to zombies! And who doesn’t love those 🙂 Also, most book series have been turned into movies which is another reason why they’re so popular right now:)
How many post-apocalyptic books should I read before watching the movie?
It’s always best to read or watch something before getting your next fix; that way, it won’t be ruined by someone else giving away all the good parts. So depending on how much time you’ve got would determine this answer. But either way, do both.
The post-apocalyptic book is a genre of literature that is unique, and it’s worth reading about. Whether you want to read something for enjoyment or if you find yourself fascinated with the idea of this kind of destruction happening in real life, these books will give you hours of entertainment and help satisfy your curiosity on what might happen should society become extinct.